There are lots of magazine articles telling patients that if they want better care to speak up for themselves! This brings up . . . are MRIs done too often?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging has become a routine test in the evaluation of musculoskeletal conditions. Most patients with neck, back, knee or shoulder pain will improve with conservative management. MRI often shows pathology (aka that something is wrong) that may have no relationship to the patient’s symptoms. Tests have shown that young and middle-aged people with NO symptoms 30-40% of the time have changes in their disks. The MRI can give confusing information that may not identify the source of pain.
To optimize healing, I do a thorough history and physical exam. Certainly, if there are “red alarms” like infection or acute disc herniation or cauda equina syndrome, then an MRI is warranted. If conservative therapy does not help resolve the problem in 4 to 6 weeks, then an MRI may help also. We physicians are trained to not obtain tests that won’t help the diagnosis or plan of care. MRI is not indicated if the result will not alter treatment. Muscle stretching and strengthening are the cornerstones of rehabilitation. That requires the patient be motivated and engaged in therapy.
Hope this helps.